I have always believed in the power of communities. When you put a bunch of passionate people in one space, some magic ends up happening. It is the easiest way to create value out of nothing. Just by connecting people. It is difficult to predict what will happen when you create a community. But you need conviction that something great will happen from a community.
I found my first co-founder for my digital marketing agency through a meet-up. I organized the meet-up myself, through my online Facebook Group. There were more than 10,000 members on the Facebook group and around 12 people decided to meet in person, at a restaurant, and just talk stuff about startups and digital marketing. (Today that Facebook group has more than 200,000 members.)
I understood the power of meet-ups with like minded people. But what's better than a meet-up? A club. I started thinking what if this was done in a more organized way, for my niche, where the community is built around my brand. I decided to start DMC - Digital Marketing Club.
DMC in its first avatar was an offline club. We used to do meet-ups at co-working spaces and get to know each other in the industry. We conducted one meet-up per month and we also had talks from experts, games, and member presentations.
Members were even allowed to pitch their business to other members of the club. It was a combination of Rotary, Lions, and JCI clubs with just the best parts of each picked out and adding our own niche specificity on the top of it.
We ran the club for a little more than a year, started a Hyderabad chapter and then the lockdown wiped out the possibility of offline meet-ups for more than 2 years. Lockdowns are still in effect as I write this post. The old pictures of the Digital Marketing Club give nostalgic memories.
As of now, Digital Marketing Club has become an online product. But we were able to squeeze our one last offline meet-up just before 2020 March.
That was just about the time I had launched my Internship program and Kamna Jain was part of the first batch. Kamna was working at Deloitte and had recently quit at that time because she didn't feel like that's what she was meant to do.
We had invited people from our batches to attend the meet-up if they were in Bangalore, and Kamna attended the meet-up. As soon as I noticed how intently she was listening to my talk, I called her up.
Initially, my intention was just to make a video testimonial from the program. This video has got almost 80k+ views as of now.
During our first meeting, I did not have any thoughts about hiring her. Because at that time we didn't have any position open. But I started thinking that she would be a great addition to the team.
My co-founder was quite uncomfortable hiring someone without knowing what they are going to do. But I have trusted my instincts before, have acted just based on intuition and it has worked out well for me. I was fixated on getting her into the team, but I couldn't come up with any clear logic for it. What is she good at, what work would she do. I had no idea.
It felt irrational at that point, but I went ahead anyway. I made an offer to her and hired her, without a position in mind. I know from experience that people who learn fast can pretty much do any task that is thrown at them. I was looking for intrapreneurs.
By the time she joined the company, we had our 2nd batch running. We had enrolled 800 students in the second batch, and I needed a helping hand to conduct the weekly live Q&A sessions for our students. Kamna was just a student at that time, but she had learned so well that I felt it was time to make her a mentor. I just threw the task at her and waited to see what happens.
Kamna started handling the Q&A sessions and exceeded expectations. She wasn't prepared for it, but she got ready along the way. Students were highly satisfied with her attentiveness and the rating of our program went up.
Since then Kamna has taken up multiple roles in the company and almost works like an entrepreneur herself. She is capable of context switching and getting multiple things done, each of which is going to make the product better.
Here are some of the responsibilities that she takes care of now (from the top of my mind)
- Batch mentoring, answering Q&A for students weekly.
- Sales webinars every week to convert our leads into paying customers.
- Sending follow-up emails to get more conversions from lukewarm leads.
- Assign certain tasks to other team members related to student communications. She is not necessarily a manager, but a mentor to other team members.
- Creating documents that can be referred to by the support department and students.
- Confronting me on certain thought patterns refines my ideas for growth and new products.
- Keeping an eye on the competition and bringing new ideas from others' inventions.
- Iterate on certain processes (such as lead generation forms) to make it better.
- Create Typeform with complex logic - for lead generation, lead profiling, and enrolment forms.
- Setting up automated communication triggers (such as welcome emails for students after payment is done). Mostly using no-code tools like Zapier.
Just writing out all the things she does itself is exhausting, imagine how she manages it. She just does it. And I'm sure I have missed out on some.
She is always "ON". Her mind is sharp, so sharp that she has to keep putting it against productive demands. Sometimes a sharp mind, if not used properly can be dangerous. We could cut ourselves.
That's how I feel most of the time about my own mind. I need to keep cutting things, else I will cut myself. I kind of saw the same kind of intellect in her.
Kamna is definitely CXO material. As our organization grows. She has already started taking care of a lot of responsibilities in the company without me having to explicitly delegate tasks to her. She is also the first woman on the team and someone for other women to look up to.
Teamwork is an art. And I am learning to be a better leader because of people like Kamna. The trust that you can find more such people goes up. The kind of people who can take up responsibility and do it perfectly so that you don't need to worry about them and keep checking on them.
That level of accountability is not something that can be bought with money. You need to sell them something else. A vision. A dream. Something that you also truly believe in. Because if you try to sell a dream that is something that you don't believe in, believe me, people can smell it from a mile away.
That's why more money for a startup rarely translates into more growth in the short term. It takes time to build work relationships, processes, products, understanding of the market, your position in the market.
She is one of the few people who understand the power of iteration. Once you believe in the power of iteration, you will not get bored by doing tasks that do not yield significant short-term results. Because you know that the iteration will compound and the significant results will come in the long term.
People who believe in that would be better capable of putting in the work without expecting some big payoff in the short term.
She trusts the process. Doesn't doubt it while she is on it. She believes in the vision and dream of LearnToday. Since our work together, she has also become a great friend and we have had fun with the team traveling to offsite meet-ups.
Since then, I have been on a hunt for more Kamnas to join my team, and I have to a large extent succeeded.
Jayant (as in the pic above), is another A-team player at LearnToday. In the next post, I will tell you about him.